- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 23, 2012

PITTSBURGH — The wait may the hardest part for Washington Capitals fans, but not for general manager George McPhee as he goes through the process of finding the next coach. He’s been patient since Dale Hunter confirmed he wasn’t coming back.

But the search seems close to being over. McPhee said Friday night he’s done interviewing candidates and now it’s deliberation time.

“We might be able to wrap it up this week,” McPhee said Saturday as the NHL draft concluded at Consol Energy Center. “And if we do, that’d be nice. I can’t promise anything.”

Getting this vital piece of the offseason in place by the start of free agency July 1 could be valuable. It appears the Caps are down to three possibilities: ex-Chicago Blackhawks assistant Mike Haviland, New Jersey Devils assistant Adam Oates and Norfolk Admirals coach John Cooper.

“I might be leaning one way, but we’ll see,” said McPhee, who predictably has not discussed names throughout this process. “I’ve got a few more questions to ask next week, not of these people but of people who know them.”

It’s been an exhaustive process that has included McPhee interviewing at least seven candidates, including ex-assistant Dean Evason.

“They’re really good candidates,” McPhee said. “The hard part is picking the best one or the best fit because they’re all terrific. I’ve really enjoyed meeting these people and spending time with them.”

Semin ‘most likely’ going to July 1

The chance of Alexander Semin returning to the Caps hasn’t been high for a long time, and all signs have been pointing to his departure as an unrestricted free agent.

That still seems to be the case just over a week out. Semin’s agent, Mark Gandler, wrote in an email response that his client “most likely” will test the market.

Asked Saturday if Semin and fellow unrestricted free agent Dennis Wideman would go to July 1, McPhee said, “Yeah, they might.”

Wideman is not expected to return and could be the second-most sought-after defenseman after Nashville Predators star Ryan Suter.

McPhee weeks ago informed veterans Mike Knuble and Jeff Halpern they would not be coming back.

Quiet on trade front?

After dealing for center Mike Ribeiro on Friday night, the Caps didn’t make another move the rest of the NHL draft. McPhee said there wasn’t a whole lot of chatter around him.

“With trade discussion, there wasn’t a whole lot this weekend,” he said. “We talked to everybody but there were three, four teams you can talk to them about something.”

There’s a little bit of time to work before the start of free agency, but the weekend might not have laid the groundwork for a trade anytime soon.

“I don’t have anything like that going, no,” McPhee said. “I don’t feel like I’m close on anything there.”

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